PDF Broadcast Hysteria: Orson Welless War of the Worlds and the Art of Fake News

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Radio, in its early days, was seen as a means for spreading hysteria and hatred, just as the Internet is today. Aliens had landed just down the road, a newscaster announced, and were rampaging through the countryside. Dock grabbed his double-barrelled shotgun and went out into the night, prepared to face down the invaders. Two people suffered heart attacks from shock, the Washington Post reported. One caller from Pittsburgh claimed that he had barely prevented his wife from taking her own life by swallowing poison.

As Schwartz tells it, there was no mass hysteria, only small pockets of concern that quickly burned out. He casts doubt on whether Dock had even heard the broadcast. Schwartz argues that newspapers exaggerated the panic to better control the upstart medium of radio, which was becoming the dominant source of breaking news in the thirties. Columnists and editorialists weighed in. To some, the lesson of the panic was that the F.

He announced a bill that would require broadcasters to submit shows to the F. Yet Schwartz says that the people calling for a government crackdown were far outnumbered by those who warned against one.

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Thompson was concerned with a threat far greater than rogue thespians. Everywhere you looked in the thirties, authoritarian leaders were being swept to power with the help of radio. It showed the danger of handing control of the airwaves over to the state. Trump used Twitter less as a communication device than as a weapon of information warfare, rallying his supporters and attacking opponents with hundred-and-forty-character barrages.

It also helped him peddle his lies through a profusion of unreliable media sources that undermined the old providers of established fact. Throughout the campaign, fake-news stories, conspiracy theories, and other forms of propaganda were reported to be flooding social networks. This was not the first campaign to be marred by misinformation, of course. But the sheer outlandishness of the claims being made, and believed, suggested to many that the Internet had brought about a fundamental devaluing of the truth. Yet, even among this information anarchy, there remains an authority of sorts.

Facebook and Google now define the experience of the Internet for most people, and in many ways they play the role of regulators. In the weeks after the election, they faced enormous criticism for their failure to halt the spread of fake news and misinformation on their services. The problem was not simply that people had been able to spread lies but that the digital platforms were set up in ways that made them especially potent. The threat of fake news was compounded by this sense that the role of the press had been ceded to an arcane algorithmic system created by private companies that care only about the bottom line.

Not so very long ago, it was thought that the tension between commercial pressure and the public interest would be one of the many things made obsolete by the Internet. In the mid-aughts, during the height of the Web 2. It was on a private platform, Twitter, where pro-democracy protesters organized, and on another private platform, Google, where the knowledge of a million public libraries could be accessed for free. The image of Arab Spring activists using Twitter to challenge repressive dictators has been replaced, in the public imagination, by that of ISIS propagandists luring vulnerable Western teen-agers to Syria via YouTube videos and Facebook chats.

The original ‘fake news’? ‘War of the Worlds’ at 80

Welles would be proud. Yet many still believe a radio drama featuring Martian invaders incited mobs of Americans to flee their homes. In Broadcast Hysteria, A. Brad Schwartz clarifies misconceptions and sets the record straight. In this well-written and meticulously researched work, Schwartz explains how a brilliant radio artist, an irresponsible press, and an overly ambitious social scientist combined to conjure one of the twentieth century's most enduring fables.

Old fights about radio have lessons for new fights about the Internet.

The real story told here proves far more interesting than the myth. Brad Schwartz has assessed upward of two thousand letters-most available to researchers only recently-expressing every manner of opinion regarding Orson Welles's 'panic broadcast. Welcome to the Book Industry Charitable Binc Foundation, a c 3 non-profit dedicated to assisting booksellers in need since The Binc Foundation grew out of a wish of bookstore employees to establish a fund to help their colleagues experiencing an unexpected financial crisis.

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The Night Radio’s War of the Worlds Created Broadcast Hysteria | Vanity Fair

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Description On the evening of October 30, , radio listeners across the United States heard a startling report of a meteor strike in the New Jersey countryside. About the Author A. He lives in East Lansing, Michigan. Calendar of Events: September. Create new account Request new password. Follow Us. Many were concerned, even terrified, but most were not. Among other sources, the author mines nearly 2, surviving letters from people responding to the broadcast, including some 1, sent directly to Welles and "The Mercury Theater" that only become part of the public record in the past decade.

A surprising number of people, among them many who had been duped, praised Welles for his theatrical tour de force.

Others were more worried that the show would inspire the government to increase censorship of radio programming. It was a time, after all, when a real world war and invasions were distinct possibilities. And while there were examples of individuals being terrified and panicking, there was no mass hysteria. What was hysterical was how real reporters from allegedly bona fide news organizations blew the impact of the broadcast out of proportion, Schwartz insists.

One such broadcast resulted in fatalities.

Fake news became part of the culture. Already a subscriber?

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